Inside the feds’ secret program to have American citizens detained and interrogated by foreign governments.
Mother Jones, By Nick Baumann, September/October 2011
When Gulet Mohamed finally returned home on a chilly Virginia morning in January, the 19-year-old from Fairfax was wearing the same outfit he had on when he disappeared a month earlier in Kuwait. Clad in a fleece hat and a gray Real Madrid sweatshirt, the straggly-bearded, wide-eyed teenager stepped out of arrivals at Dulles Airport and into a phalanx of television cameras. He wore a bewildered smile””as if he was still unsure of what had happened to him but was just grateful it was over.
For more than a year, Mohamed had been living in Kuwait City with an uncle. On December 20, 2010, according to legal records (PDF), he went to the airport to renew his tourist visa for an additional three months. The process took longer than usual. From a waiting area, Mohamed emailed his brother to let him know he’d run into some red tape.
Soon afterward, two men in street clothes came in, blindfolded him, escorted him out of the airport, and led him into the back of a vehicle. They drove maybe 15 or 20 minutes. When the men removed his blindfold, he was in a cell with white walls.
In the past, the FBI has denied that it asks foreign governments to apprehend Americans. But, a Mother Jones investigation has found, the bureau has a long-standing and until now undisclosed program for facilitating such detentions. Coordinated by elite agents who serve in terrorism hot spots around the world, the practice enables the interrogation of American suspects outside the US justice system. “Their citizenship doesn’t seem to matter to the government,” says Daphne Eviatar, a lawyer with Human Rights First. “It raises a question of whether there’s a whole class of people out there who’ve been denied the right to return home for the purpose of interrogation in foreign custody.”
Although it’s difficult to say for certain whether the men in this story””which is based on interviews with law enforcement and intelligence officials, court documents, transcripts, and other records””are terrorists, tourists, or something in between, one thing is clear: Pakistanis, Saudis, and Somalis aren’t the only ones being captured and questioned on our behalf. Americans are too.